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Massachusetts Moves to Allow Medical Marijuana Insurance

“Cannabis is medicine, it’s indisputable,” said Dr. Ryan Zacklin. “Medication, it’s all covered.”


A bill filed by Massachusetts Democratic state Rep. David LeBoeuf and Democratic Sens. Julian Cyr and Jason Lewis, would legalize health insurance coverage for medical Cannabis products and related clinical visits.

Medical marijuana is used to treat everything from chronic pain to Parkinson’s to PTSD. But it is still, for some weird Prohibitionist reason, not covered by medical insurance. Many say that makes the herb prohibitively expensive to those who need it for medicinally, reports the Boston Herald.

“Cannabis is medicine, it’s indisputable,” said Dr. Ryan Zacklin, who works in the MassGeneral Brigham network. “Medication, it’s all covered by insurance. There’s no reason for this not to be.”

Zacklin said in the Joint Committee on Financial Services hearing that patients, who pay an annual fee for the medication, don’t come to him for marijuana. Instead, “they come to me for pain, they come to me for anxiety, they come to me for insomnia, and this is a part of what I do,” he said. He added that cost is among the biggest barriers to treatment he sees in his practice.

Massachusetts’ Costly Cannabis

PriceofWeed.com puts Massachusetts’ ganja prices well above the national average: an ounce of “medium-quality” bud costs $282 in the Bay State. But nationally, that price would average $256.

The DEA still considers Cannabis a Schedule I drug, and not yet FDA approved. This is why Massachusetts does not allow health insurers to pay for medical marijuana. The Supreme Judicial Court reaffirmed that decision in Massachusetts last year, as CommonWealth Magazine reported.

A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans said health insurers cover one cannabis-derived drug, Epidiolex, a seizure medication. Insurers also cover three synthetic cannabis-related drug products which treat nausea and anorexia: Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet.

“The FDA plays an important role in supporting scientific research on various drugs to assess their medical efficacy, the appropriate dosage, determine the best route of administration, and test for possible drug interactions,” MAHP said in a statement. “Because medical marijuana is not yet FDA approved, Massachusetts health plans do not offer coverage.”

Several patients who rely on medical marijuana for chronic conditions testified Tuesday, arguing that the cost can prevent them from this essential treatment.

‘They Will Not Pay For The Medical Cannabis’

Jennifer Van, 42, has several chronic health conditions including ulcerative colitis, anxiety, PTSD and endometriosis. She also survived cancer. Van said she takes at least 15 medications per day, including two opiates and three controlled substances.

“I could replace at least eight of my medications for medical cannabis and get rid of them completely if I could afford it, or if my health insurance covered it. However, I cannot,” she said. “They will pay for high-dose opiates or controlled substances, but they will not pay for the medical cannabis.”

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